Rowan University follows-up on the November sports bra incident

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Following the sports bra incident that occurred last semester, the Office of the President at Rowan University is doubling down on attempts to foster transparency. Rowan officials are following up with those involved and taking steps to further address the issue, according to Vice President for University Relations Joe Cardona.

They’ve recently met with students to discuss overall concerns.

“Sometimes people expect more action more quickly, and these things take time. You have to research these things and study the matters,” Cardona said. “You have to be thorough when looking at the matter, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The incident resulted from a blog posted on the Odyssey by a former Rowan cross country athlete expressing her frustration and concern.

After intense media coverage and widespread dialogue blanketing campus, the university hired an outside consultant, Cheryl Levick, to conduct a program review of the athletics department and how they operate; for example, how other universities compare to how Rowan Athletics schedule their practices, games and provide their uniforms.

According to Cardona, this is “not uncommon for higher education” and is used as a means to get an outsider’s perspective, unhindered by potential conflicts of interest.

In the letter sent by Ali Houshmand, the Title IX infractions by members of the women’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams were quickly investigated by The Office of Equity & Diversity.

“While the investigation did not substantiate the complaint within strict
Title IX definitions, it did highlight potential issues related to harassment, bullying and incivility which the Human Resources Department is
investigating with guidance from the Office of General Counsel,” the letter stated.

According to Cardona, Levick will publish her findings once her investigation is concluded in June.

In a Rowan Announcer sent out earlier this week, students were issued a follow-up statement from President Ali Houshmand.

Letter from President Ali Houshmand:

Focused on facts, committed to equity

Dear University Community, you may recall that this past November
Rowan University was in the media spotlight after a student wrote a blog post that went viral. The headlines focused on sports bras as appropriate athletic attire, but other concerns drove debate here and beyond and
attracted attention from national media about broader concerns related
to fair treatment of women student-athletes. 

As we exercise due diligence in responding to these matters, I reaffirm
our University’s uncompromising support of gender equity, including
throughout our women’s athletics programs. Although examining this
has been uncomfortable for everyone involved, I am grateful I had the
opportunity to speak with the author of the blog and start what has
become a very important conversation throughout our University
community. I also appreciate the perspectives of more than 100 student-
athletes who attended meetings starting in November to discuss issues
well beyond that of the women’s Cross Country and Track & Field team
training apparel. These interactions have been respectful and in many
cases, eye-opening.  

Through the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring term,
we’ve made a great deal of progress toward investigating the questions
and allegations of possible gender inequity and Title IX infractions.
To that end, I share the following summary of just some of our ongoing
efforts to address the issues in a transparent and responsive manner:

-The Office of Equity & Diversity conducted a Title IX investigation of the
specific allegations of gender inequity and harassment brought forward
by members of the women’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams.
While the investigation did not substantiate the complaint within strict
Title IX definitions, it did highlight potential issues related to harassment, bullying and incivility which the Human Resources Department is
investigating with guidance from the Office of General Counsel.

-We have begun to review and revise the Student-Athlete Handbook,
Athletic Department Policy Manual, student-athlete policies and all team rules. We clarified the dress code and affirmed that sports bras are appropriate practice attire for Cross Country and Track & Field student-
athletes. We also are clarifying policies on scheduling and access to facilities, as well as planning online access to all policies and rules for
student-athletes.

-We hired an independent expert in collegiate athletics programs
to conduct an expansive program review focused on Athletics
Department policies and procedures and a comprehensive evaluation of Title IX compliance. She already has begun the study, interviewing
students, coaches and administrators. Her report, due no later than June 30, 2019, will help guide us in our pursuit of being at the forefront of
national best practices.

-We learned that students had received incomplete and/or insufficient
information on a number of key athletics-related issues, including locker room location, competition and practice apparel, facilities scheduling
and general team rules. We are taking steps to improve communication
and access to information.

As we focus on improving communication, processes and practices, and
holding ourselves accountable, our student-athletes are doing what they do best: distinguishing themselves in the classroom and in competition.

Most recently: 
-Our women’s and men’s Cross Country teams earned All-Academic
Team honors.
-Our Athletics program’s student-athletes’ overall GPA is 3.18.
-Profs men’s and women’s Swimming & Diving teams, men’s Indoor Track & Field and men’s Basketball captured conference championship titles.
-Rowan Lacrosse, Baseball and Softball teams are at the top of the preseason coaches polls.

Since 1923, our student-athletes have trained and competed at the highest level possible, enriching their collegiate experience and helping build
pride in our institution. For today’s student-athletes and generations to
come, we commit to a welcoming climate and the best of what collegiate athletics offers. 

Please feel free to share questions or concerns at 
officeofthepresident@rowan.edu

Very truly yours,  Dr. Ali A. Houshmand President 

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